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former IAEA Director-General

July/August 2018
Edition Date: 
Sunday, July 1, 2018
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After the Singapore Summit

The historic if brief encounter on June 12 between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides a hopeful starting point for the lengthy and arduous process of negotiating the details of denuclearization and the establishment of a peace regime on the Korean peninsula.

July/August 2018
By Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director

The historic if brief encounter on June 12 between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides a hopeful starting point for the lengthy and arduous process of negotiating the details of denuclearization and the establishment of a peace regime on the Korean peninsula.

U.S. President Donald Trump walks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the start of their historic summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island in Singapore on June 12. (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)The summit process has certainly eased tensions, but contrary to Trump’s self-aggrandizing claim that there is “no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea,” the reality is that the difficult work of disarmament diplomacy has only just begun.

Denuclearization is no simple task. There is no precedent for a country that has openly tested nuclear weapons and developed a nuclear arsenal and infrastructure as substantial as the one in North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs involve dozens of sites, hundreds of buildings, and thousands of people. Rapid progress should be the goal, but comprehensive denuclearization will take years.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a CNN interview on June 24, hinted that more has been accomplished than the Singapore communiqué revealed. “There are understandings that have been put together prior to the summit…that I think put us on the right trajectory so that we can build out a framework for success,” he said.

With Pompeo expected to make a return trip to Pyongyang soon, the first order of business must be to agree on a framework for ongoing, direct, expert-level negotiations on the details and time frame for action-for-action steps. The process could be coordinated through high-level, three-party consultations involving the United States, South Korea, and North Korea.

An early goal should be to reach a common understanding, in writing, about what denuclearization entails—a crucial detail left out of the Singapore summit joint statement. A good basis would be the 1992 Joint Declaration on Denuclearization by North and South Korea.

Next, the United States will want North Korea to solidify its voluntary nuclear test moratorium by signing the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and expand on its missile testing halt to include an end to new ballistic missile production. It also will be crucial to secure a pledge from North Korea to halt fissile material production. These steps would help ensure that North Korea cannot expand its arsenal while negotiations continue.

Another early goal should be to secure North Korea’s commitment to deliver a full declaration of its nuclear infrastructure, materials, and weapons to be verified later by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) using guidelines and techniques established by the IAEA Model Additional Protocol for nuclear safeguards.

Further, the two sides will need to agree to a process and a timeline for dismantling North Korea’s stockpile of 10 to 50 nuclear weapons and securing separated fissile material. This work would likely have to be supervised by specialists from nuclear-weapon states in cooperation with North Korean technical experts.

Facilities that are part of North Korea's nuclear complex also would need to be verifiably dismantled or converted to peaceful uses under international supervision. This would be a major undertaking that could build on the experience from U.S. and Russian Cooperative Threat Reduction programs, which helped eliminate excess Cold War-era stockpiles and sites.

The summit communiqué underscores that progress on denuclearization depends on joint “efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime” on the Korean peninsula. Kim is not going to give up nuclear weapons if he believes doing so will compromise North Korea’s security.

Trump’s postsummit decision to suspend U.S. joint military exercises with South Korea is an important confidence-building measure that may help catalyze further progress. What more can be done and done in a way that improves allies’ security? Key measures might include

  • formal security guarantees, including a commitment not to initiate the use of force against one another,
    and a hotline agreement to help avoid miscommunication in a crisis;
  • removal of U.S. strategic bombers and offensive-strike assets from any future joint military exercises;
  • a three-party declaration on the end of the Korean War to be followed by formal negotiations on a peace treaty involving the United States, North Korea, South Korea, and China;
  • steps toward the normalization of U.S.-North Korean relations, beginning with the opening of a diplomatic interest section in Pyongyang and Washington; and
  • reduction of military force deployments on both sides of the demilitarized zone in a manner consistent
    with a future peace treaty.

The overall goal should be to continue to move as quickly as possible toward halting, reversing, and eliminating North Korea’s nuclear strike potential and away from a worsening crisis involving a growing North Korean nuclear capability and U.S. threats, such as Trump’s “fire and fury” remarks that brought the region to the brink of war in 2017.

Success is far from guaranteed. Yet, the pursuit of disarmament diplomacy with North Korea is far better than
the alternatives.


Posted: July 1, 2018

DOCUMENT: Ethics and Autonomous Weapon Systems: An Ethical Basis for Human Control?

Decisions to kill, injure and destroy must not be delegated to machines, says the International Committee of the Red Cross.

July/August 2018

The following is the executive summary of a paper submitted by the International Committee of the Red Cross to the April 9–13 meeting in Geneva of the Convention on Conventional Weapons Group of Governmental Experts. The group is considering issues involving so-called killer robots, including calls from some countries and advocacy groups for a ban on such weapons.

In the view of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), human control must be maintained over weapon systems and the use of force to ensure compliance with international law and to satisfy ethical concerns, and States must work urgently to establish limits on autonomy in weapon systems.

In August 2017, the ICRC convened a round-table meeting with independent experts to explore the ethical issues raised by autonomous weapon systems and the ethical dimension of the requirement for human control. This report summarizes discussions and highlights the ICRC’s main conclusions.

The fundamental ethical question is whether the principles of humanity and the dictates of the public conscience can allow human decision-making on the use of force to be effectively substituted with computer-controlled processes, and life-and-death decisions to be ceded to machines.

It is clear that ethical decisions by States, and by society at large, have preceded and motivated the development of new international legal constraints in warfare, including constraints on weapons that cause unacceptable harm. In international humanitarian law, notions of humanity and public conscience are drawn from the Martens Clause. As a potential marker of the public conscience, opinion polls to date suggest a general opposition to autonomous weapon systems—with autonomy eliciting a stronger response than remote-controlled systems.

Ethical issues are at the heart of the debate about the acceptability of autonomous weapon systems. It is precisely anxiety about the loss of human control over weapon systems and the use of force that goes beyond questions of the compatibility of autonomous weapon systems with our laws to encompass fundamental questions of acceptability to our values. A prominent aspect of the ethical debate has been a focus on autonomous weapon systems that are designed to kill or injure humans, rather than those that destroy or damage objects, which are already employed to a limited extent.

The primary ethical argument for autonomous weapon systems has been results-oriented: that their potential precision and reliability might enable better respect for both international law and human ethical values, resulting in fewer adverse humanitarian consequences. As with other weapons, such characteristics would depend on both the design-dependent effects and the way the weapons were used. A secondary argument is that they would help fulfil the duty of militaries to protect their own forces—a quality not unique to autonomous weapon systems.

While there are concerns regarding the technical capacity of autonomous weapons systems to function within legal and ethical constraints, the enduring ethical arguments against these weapons are those that transcend context—whether during armed conflict or in peacetime—and transcend technology—whether simple or sophisticated.

The importance of retaining human agency—and intent—in decisions to use force, is one of the central ethical arguments for limits on autonomy in weapon systems. Many take the view that decisions to kill, injure and destroy must not be delegated to machines, and that humans must be present in this decision-making process sufficiently to preserve a direct link between the intention of the human and the eventual operation of the weapon system.

Closely linked are concerns about a loss of human dignity. In other words, it matters not just if a person is killed or injured but how they are killed or injured, including the process by which these decisions are made. It is argued that, if human agency is lacking to the extent that machines have effectively, and functionally, been delegated these decisions, then it undermines the human dignity of those combatants targeted, and of civilians that are put at risk as a consequence of legitimate attacks on military targets.

The need for human agency is also linked to moral responsibility and accountability for decisions to use force. These are human responsibilities (both ethical and legal), which cannot be transferred to inanimate machines, or computer algorithms.

Predictability and reliability in using an autonomous weapon system are ways of connecting human agency and intent to the eventual consequences of an attack. However, as weapons that self-initiate attacks, autonomous weapon systems all raise questions about predictability, owing to varying degrees of uncertainty as to exactly when, where and/or why a resulting attack will take place. The application of AI and machine learning to targeting functions raises fundamental questions of inherent unpredictability.

Context also affects ethical assessments. Constraints on the time-frame of operation and scope of movement over an area are key factors, as are the task for which the weapon is used and the operating environment. However, perhaps the most important factor is the type of target, since core ethical concerns about human agency, human dignity and moral responsibility are most acute in relation to the notion of anti-personnel autonomous weapon systems that target humans directly.

From the ICRC’s perspective, ethical considerations parallel the requirement for a minimum level of human control over weapon systems and the use of force to ensure legal compliance. From an ethical viewpoint, “meaningful”, “effective” or “appropriate” human control would be the type and degree of control that preserves human agency and upholds moral responsibility in decisions to use force. This requires a sufficiently direct and close connection to be maintained between the human intent of the user and the eventual consequences of the operation of the weapon system in a specific attack.

Ethical and legal considerations may demand some similar constraints on autonomy in weapon systems, so that meaningful human control is maintained—in particular, with respect to: human supervision and the ability to intervene and deactivate; technical requirements for predictability and reliability (including in the algorithms used); and operational constraints on the task for which the weapon is used, the type of target, the operating environment, the timeframe of operation and the scope of movement over an area.

However, the combined and interconnected ethical concerns about loss of human agency in decisions to use force, diffusion of moral responsibility and loss of human dignity could have the most far-reaching consequences, perhaps precluding the development and use of anti-personnel autonomous weapon systems, and even limiting the applications of anti-materiel systems, depending on the risks that destroying materiel targets present for human life.

U.S. Statement on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems

The following is an excerpt of the U.S. statement on lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) presented April 9 to the Convention on Conventional Weapons Group of Governmental Experts.

It is clear that many governments, including that of the United States, are still trying to understand more fully the ways that autonomy will be used by their societies, including by their militaries. There remains a lack of common understanding on various issues related to LAWS, including their characteristics and elements.

The United States believes that [international humanitarian law (IHL)] provides a robust and appropriate framework for the regulation of all weapons—including those with autonomous functions—in relation to armed conflict, and any development or use of LAWS must be fully consistent with IHL, including the principles of military necessity, humanity, distinction, and proportionality. For this reason, the United States places great importance on the weapon review process in the development and acquisition of new weapon systems. This is a critical measure in ensuring that weapon systems can dependably be used in a manner that is consistent with IHL.

The United States also continues to believe that advances in autonomy and machine learning can facilitate and enhance the implementation of IHL, including the principles of distinction and proportionality. One of our goals is to understand more fully how this technology can continue to be used to reduce the risk to civilians and friendly forces in armed conflict.

The issues presented by LAWS are complex and evolving, as new technologies and their applications continue to be developed. We therefore must be cautious not to make hasty judgments about the value or likely effects of emerging or future technologies. As history shows, our views of new technologies may change over time as we find new uses and ways to benefit from advances in technology. We therefore do not support the negotiation of a political or legally binding document. Rather, we believe we should continue to proceed collectively—with deliberation and patience.

Posted: July 1, 2018

REMARKS: Reducing Stocks of Highly Enriched Uranium

Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide addresses why this is an important international challenge.

July/August 2018

This is adapted from remarks on June 5 by Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide at the 3rd International Symposium on HEU Minimization in Oslo.

Few questions are more important than nuclear security, as global events in recent months have reminded us. I'm pleased that there are representatives from many countries from around the world here today, close to 90 people from 27 countries.

Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs  Ine Eriksen Søreide (Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)Norway has been engaged in efforts to minimize and eliminate stocks and the use of highly enriched uranium [HEU] and in promoting non-HEU alternatives for more than a decade. We organized the first symposium on HEU minimization in 2006 and a second in 2012.

The International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] has been a close and important partner throughout these 12 years, and this symposium is yet another example of our long-standing and close cooperation with our Radiation Protection Authority.

There are at least two reasons why Norway has engaged in efforts to minimize HEU, first, because HEU is a key ingredient of nuclear weapons. The global security environment is challenging. The nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation architecture is under pressure. The U.S. decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran has made the whole agreement vulnerable. We are concerned about how this decision could affect the future of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty [NPT] and the international community's ability to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Much is at stake. Last night's news that Iran may intend to increase the capacity to produce uranium hexafluoride and thereby possibly prepare for further enrichment is disturbing. It stresses the need for all parties to continue to show restraint and engage actively to ensure the continued implementation of the Iran accord. Furthermore, North Korea's nuclear program remains a huge challenge, although recent developments may give grounds for cautious optimism.

Norway is fully committed to the objective of total elimination of nuclear weapons. We are continuing to work actively for nonproliferation and disarmament based on the balanced, mutual, irreversible, and verifiable elimination of nuclear weapons.

Reducing our dependence on HEU is important both as part of these efforts and for fulfilling our obligations under the NPT.

Second, minimizing and eliminating stocks and the use of HEU in the civilian sector is equally important as an element of a comprehensive approach to nuclear security. The large quantities of HEU still in use in civilian nuclear facilities pose significant risks.

Sadly, some nonstate actors are willing to use fissile and radiological material for destructive purposes. Their access to such material could potentially have catastrophic consequences. Recent instances of the use of chemical weapons, whether by states or nonstate actors, could undermine norms and the taboo against using weapons of mass destruction in general. Converting to non-HEU alternatives will considerably reduce the risk of nuclear material falling into the wrong hands.

Norway is actively supporting international efforts and collaboration to convert reactors from using HEU to low-enriched uranium [LEU] that still allows civilian facilities to operate at high performance levels. Norway has collaborated with Russia for more than 20 years to prevent nuclear and other radioactive material from going astray.

We have played a part in facilitating the safe transport of spent nuclear fuel, including HEU. Removal of spent nuclear fuel from the former base at Andreeva Bay on the Kola Peninsula began on June 27, 2017. This was an important milestone in our joint efforts to reduce threats to health and the environment in the north.

Today, I am happy to announce that Norway will provide $300,000 in support for the IAEA-led project on conversion of the Nigeria Miniature Neutron Source Reactor so that it can use LEU fuel instead of HEU. This project serves to further the agency's goals of “Atoms for Peace and Development” by contributing to global efforts to reduce the use of HEU in civil nuclear applications. It also supports the Nigerian government in its efforts to promote economic development and to develop a nuclear power program.

Norway is still in possession of a small quantity of HEU, which it has not yet been possible to repatriate. We are now intensifying our efforts to remove this material safely and appropriately. In collaboration with the United States, we will shortly convene an international technical meeting to discuss potential solutions for treating and ultimately removing materials containing HEU that have so far been outside of the scope of current repatriation programs.

Our aim is to make rapid progress in the transition from HEU to LEU for civilian use. This is a matter of the utmost importance for our common security.

Nuclear security is a perfect example of a 21st century security challenge that no one nation can solve alone. We need to act together.

Posted: July 1, 2018

Summit Reflects New Attitudes, Old Challenges

By talking rather than threatening, U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un stepped back from an accelerating slide toward a conflict. Still, eliminating Kim’s nuclear weapons is a
tall order.

July/August 2018
By Kelsey Davenport

The historic Singapore summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may have emphasized pageantry over substance, but the document both leaders signed could start a serious negotiating process on eliminating Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons.

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as they sit down with their respective delegations for the U.S.-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island in Singapore, June 12.  (Photo:  Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)Their June 12 joint statement committed North Korea to the “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” and both countries to hold follow-on negotiations at the “earliest possible date” to implement the leaders’ understandings.

Upon his return to Washington on June 13, Trump claimed to have achieved his goal, tweeting misleadingly that “there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea." The reassurance was premature at best, given that the summit statement did not commit Kim to take any specific steps to halt his nuclear weapons program. Negotiations on what comes next are bound to be difficult, and the history of failed agreements (see box) will weigh on the talks.

Still, by talking rather than threatening, Trump and Kim have stepped back from what seemed to be an accelerating slide toward a conflict with the risk of nuclear weapons use in 2017. Kim, one of the world’s most isolated leaders, bolstered his standing by attaining a one-on-one meeting with a U.S. president. It remains to be seen if the meeting created the necessary political momentum to begin a negotiating process or if it sends the wrong message about leveraging illicit nuclear activities for political gain. Iran, for one, may note the disparity in U.S. treatment.

The U.S. negotiators, led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, must try to convert the declared understandings into detailed commitments and then into actions leading to North Korea's complete and verifiable nuclear disarmament—the very goal that has eluded negotiators in the past. How this goes in the coming weeks, months, and perhaps years—not the day-after celebratory tweets from the U.S. president—will determine whether the meeting was a historic turning point or another diplomatic disappointment.

Going into the summit, North Korea and the United States had different expectations about what denuclearization entails. (See ACT, May 2018.) The reference to “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” does not appear to have resolved those differences, and gaps are already discernable between the two countries’ interpretations of the summit commitments.

Before the summit, Pompeo told reporters in Singapore that the “complete and verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula is the only outcome that the United States will accept.”

When pressed by reporters after the summit on why there was no inclusion of the word “verification” in the summit document, Pompeo said that verification was understood as part of “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.” A June 13 statement on the summit published by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) did not mention verification.

Differences in interpretation have plagued U.S. negotiations with North Korea in the past. Most recently, a February 2012 moratorium on long-range missile tests collapsed when North Korea conducted a satellite launch in April of that year. Satellite launch vehicles were not expressly mentioned in the so-called Leap Day deal; the United States said it was understood that such launches were also prohibited, whereas North Korea said they were permitted. (See ACT, May 2012.)

The KCNA statement said that the two leaders agreed “it is important to abide by the principle of step-by-step and simultaneous action” to achieve peace, stability, and denuclearization.

John Bolton, Trump's national security adviser, said June 20 in an interview with Fox News that all sanctions will remain in force until there is evidence of North Korean denuclearization.

It may be difficult for the United States to retain sanctions pressure, given the steps Kim has taken to halt nuclear weapons and certain missile tests and to engage in negotiations with the United States and South Korea.

Following the summit, China called for the UN Security Council to support the diplomatic process and adjust sanctions, “including to pause or remove the relevant sanctions” if North Korea “acts in accordance” with Security Council resolutions. In addition to requiring North Korea to halt nuclear weapons and missile tests, the Security Council resolutions also demand Pyongyang abandon its nuclear program in a complete, verifiable, and irreversible manner.

In follow-up negotiations, Pompeo will need to clarify with his North Korean counterparts the expectations for denuclearization or run the risk that Pyongyang may exploit any ambiguity in the future.

Despite differences over scope and sequencing, the summit may yield concrete results. Kim is more likely to take verifiable steps to halt and roll back his nuclear and ballistic missile programs if there is a fundamental shift in U.S.-North Korean relations, and despite the insults Kim and Trump traded last year, the two leaders seem to have developed a personal chemistry.

North Korea has long stated that its nuclear weapons are a deterrent against “U.S. hostile policy” toward the country. The KCNA statement on June 13 said that if the United States is willing to take “genuine measures to improving trust” between the two countries, North Korea will take commensurate steps. The statement also said the two countries should commit to refrain from “antagonizing” one another and noted that Trump and Kim have “deepening friendly feelings.”

Trump’s expressions of admiration for Kim, despite myriad human rights abuses, and his announcement at the June 12 summit news conference that the United States would suspend joint “war games” with South Korea may demonstrate that Washington is willing to take steps to respond to North Korea’s security concerns.

Trump’s decision to suspend all military exercises and his adoption of Pyongyang’s term of “war games” to describe the drills caught many off guard, including South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. military forces in Korea. South Korea later agreed to suspend the planned exercises in August.

Pompeo had acknowledged in his June 11 news conference that addressing North Korea’s security concerns and steps on denuclearization must go hand in hand, but did not indicate that Trump was putting a suspension of exercises on the table during the summit.

Trump did say that the United States would resume military exercises if negotiations with North Korea fail to make progress. He did not indicate if the continued suspension was tied to a continuation of North Korea’s voluntary pledge in April to halt long-range ballistic missile and nuclear weapons tests.

China has long pushed an interim “freeze for freeze” proposal in which North Korea would agree to halt testing in exchange for a halt of joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises. Last year, U.S. officials including H.R. McMaster, the then-national security adviser, rejected that concept. (See ACT, November 2017.)

As the dominant regional power, China is playing an important, if unclear, role. Kim met with Chinese President Xi Jinping twice in the lead-up to the summit and again on June 19. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on June 12 that the Trump-Kim summit has “important and positive meaning.”


North Korea's Past Nuclear Agreements at a Glance

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s “firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” as stated in the Singapore summit statement, follows a history of agreements that at times curbed but ultimately failed to stop North Korea from producing and testing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles to deliver them. Following is a summary of some of the previous agreements.

Jan. 20, 1992: The two Koreas sign the South-North Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, agreeing not to test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy, or use nuclear weapons or to possess nuclear reprocessing and uranium-enrichment facilities. They also agree to mutual inspections for verification. The following year, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) found that North Korea had clandestinely separated a small amount of plutonium.

Aug. 12, 1994: The United States and North Korea sign an “agreed statement” that establishes a three-stage process for the elimination of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. In return, the United States promises to move toward normalized economic and diplomatic relations and assures North Korea that it will provide assistance with the construction of proliferation-resistant power reactors to replace North Korea’s graphite-moderated reactors.

Oct. 21, 1994: The United States and North Korea conclude four months of negotiations by adopting the Agreed Framework. The accord calls for North Korea to freeze and eventually eliminate its nuclear facilities, a process that will require dismantling three nuclear reactors. North Korea agreed to allow the IAEA to verify compliance through special inspections and to allow 8,000 spent nuclear reactor fuel elements to be removed to a third country, in exchange for heavy fuel oil shipments and the construction of two, more proliferation-resistant light-water reactors. Calling for movement toward full normalization of political and economic relations, the accord also serves as a jumping-off point for U.S.-North Korean dialogue on Pyongyang’s development and export of ballistic missiles. The agreement broke down by 2002 over accusations by
each side that the other had failed to comply with key obligations.

June 15, 2000: Following a historic summit, North and South Korea sign a joint declaration stating they have “agreed to resolve” the question of reunification of the Korean Peninsula. The declaration included promises to reunite families divided by the Korean War and to pursue other economic and cultural exchanges. No commitments are made regarding nuclear weapons or missile programs or military deployments in the Demilitarized Zone.

Sept. 19, 2005: The participants in the six-party talks conclude a statement of principles to guide future negotiations. North Korea commits “to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning, at an early date” to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and to IAEA safeguards. It also called for the 1992 Joint Declaration to be “observed and implemented.” Washington affirms in the statement that it has no intention to attack or invade North Korea. The statement commits the participants to achieving “the verifiable denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula “in a peaceful manner.” Implementation disputes arose, and North Korea conducted its first nuclear test explosion on Oct. 9, 2006.

Feb. 8-13, 2007: The fifth round of the six-party talks concludes with an action plan of initial steps to implement the September 2005 joint statement on North Korea’s denuclearization. North Korea agreed to halt the operation of its nuclear facilities at Yongbyon during a 60-day initial phase in return for an initial shipment of 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil. The action plan also established five working groups to “discuss and formulate specific plans” regarding economic and energy cooperation, denuclearization, implementation of a “Northeast Asia Peace and Security Mechanism,” North Korean relations with the United States, and North Korean relations with Japan. The statement called for Pyongyang to provide a complete declaration of all of its nuclear programs and disable all of its existing nuclear facilities in return for an additional 950,000 tons of heavy fuel oil or its equivalent. By the end of 2008, however, the last of the six-party talks ended in a stalemate due to a U.S.-North Korean dispute over the verification of North Korea’s declaration.

Feb. 29, 2012: Following a Feb. 23–24 meeting between the United States and North Korea in Beijing, the two countries announce in separate statements the “Leap Day” agreement by North Korea to suspend operations at its Yongbyon uranium-enrichment plant, invite IAEA inspectors to monitor the suspension, and implement moratoriums on nuclear and long-range missile tests. The United States says that it would provide North Korea with 240,000 metric tons of food aid under strict monitoring. The agreement fell apart over a dispute about whether it prohibited “space launches” and North Korea’s March 2012 attempt to use a rocket to loft a satellite into orbit.

March 8, 2018: Following a series of ballistic missile tests in 2017, including successful intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) flight tests; threats of military attack from the United States; and North Korea’s sixth and largest nuclear test explosion on Sept. 3, 2017, senior South Korean officials convey an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.

June 12, 2018: Trump and Kim meet for about four hours in Singapore and sign a joint communique in which they agree to establish “new” U.S.-North Korean relations, build a “lasting and stable peace regime” on the Korean peninsula, and recover remains of U.S. soldiers from the Korean War. Kim commits to “work toward complete denuclearization” on the Korean peninsula, and Trump commits to provide unspecified “security guarantees” for North Korea.

Posted: July 1, 2018

EU Acts to Block U.S. Sanctions on Iran

European leaders try to keep Trump’s action from blowing up the Iran nuclear deal.

July/August 2018
By Kelsey Davenport

The European Union adopted measures to protect European entities doing business with Iran from U.S. sanctions, but Iranian officials have said EU efforts are insufficient to persuade Tehran to remain in compliance with the accord.

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj greets to her Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif before a meeting in New Delhi on May 28. Like the EU, India is resisting renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran. “India follows only UN sanctions, and not unilateral sanctions by any country,” she said at a news conference. (Photo: Money Sharma/AFP/Getty Images)The European Commission action on June 6 updating its 1996 blocking regulation to include U.S. sanctions on Iran enters into force Aug. 5, unless more than half of the members of the European Parliament or the EU Foreign Affairs Council object prior to that date. The blocking regulation prohibits EU entities from complying with U.S. extraterritorial sanctions and allows companies to recover damages from such sanctions.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement on May 8 withdrawing from the multilateral nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and reimposing sanctions triggered 90- or 180-day wind-down periods for companies and banks to exit Iran before penalties are assessed. (See ACT, June 2018.) The 90-day period ends Aug. 6.

Despite the EU action, a number of companies already announced they are pulling out of the Iranian market, including Maersk Tankers of Denmark, General Electric, Siemens, Lukoil, and Reliance Petroleum.

Although it was expected that multinational companies would exit the Iranian market irrespective of the blocking regulation, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told the European Parliament on June 12 that the focus is on small and medium-sized enterprises that “are less engaged in the U.S. market.”

Several companies, including French automaker Renault, said they intend to remain in Iran, while others, such as French oil company Total, said they will seek U.S. sanctions waivers to continue doing business with Iran.

In a June 4 letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Mogherini along with the foreign ministers and finance ministers of the E3 (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom) requested sanctions exemptions that would allow European entities to maintain banking channels with Iran and allow existing contracts to go forward. They wrote that, as U.S. allies, they expect Washington “will refrain from taking action to harm Europe’s security interests” and reaffirmed that they consider the nuclear deal critical for protecting “collective security interests.”

There is no indication from the Trump administration that exemptions will be granted. Chris Ford, assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, said on June 11 that the United States is prepared to “lean hard on our partners and the international community” as Washington pursues its strategy of using sanctions to pressure Iran into new negotiations on its ballistic missiles and regional activities, as well as its nuclear program.

The U.S. officials have begun a “diplomatic roadshow” to discuss how to minimize exposure to U.S. sanctions and how to “work together in pursuit of a better, successor agreement,” Ford said at the Center for a New American Security.

Iranian officials have said they will not renegotiate with the United States and will continue abiding by the nuclear deal if the remaining parties can deliver on sanctions relief. Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), said on June 19 that the steps taken so far by the EU are insufficient.

The EU is working on additional options to realize the sanctions relief for Iran envisioned by the nuclear deal. Mogherini said that the “most important challenge now is to find solutions on banking and finance” to facilitate legitimate trade.

The European Commission agreed on June 6 to update the European Investment Bank’s mandate to enable lending to Iran. But it seems unlikely that the bank will decide to finance any activities in Iran. After the announcement, the bank said in a statement that it “is not the right tool” and that the bank cannot ignore the sanctions and remain a “solid and credible institution.”

Although the Trump administration appears unlikely to grant waivers for European entities, it may grant exemptions for projects specified by the nuclear deal. One of the entities redesignated under U.S. regulations as a result of the reimposition of sanctions was the AEOI, which puts at risk companies engaged on these priority nonproliferation projects.

Under the nuclear deal, Iran agreed to remove the core of its Arak reactor and modify it to produce no more than minimal amounts of weapons-usable plutonium. China is working with Iran on implementation. The nuclear deal also required Iran to convert its Fordow enrichment site into a stable-isotope research facility and refrain from any uranium-enrichment activities at the site for 15 years. Russia is assisting Iran in that project.

A State Department official told Arms Control Today on June 15 that no decision has been made on whether to pursue penalties against Chinese and Russian firms working on the Arak and Fordow projects.

Iran has continued to threaten to respond to the U.S. action by resuming prohibited nuclear activities if the remaining parties do not deliver on sanctions relief.

The most recent IAEA implementation report confirmed Iran’s compliance. But the report noted that although inspectors have had access to all sites necessary, more “timely and proactive cooperation by Iran” on access granted under an additional protocol to Iran’s safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would facilitate implementation and “enhance confidence.”

During the IAEA Board of Governors meeting, U.S. diplomat Nicole Shampaine said on June 5 that the agency “should never again have to appeal for ‘timely and proactive cooperation’ by Iran.”

Iran also notified the IAEA that it was opening a new centrifuge production facility. Reza Najafi, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, said on June 6 that the decision to open the facility reflect preparatory work “for a possible scenario” and reiterated that Iran will not start “any activities contrary” to the accord at this time.

Building a new facility for centrifuge production is not a violation of the deal if Iran notifies the agency in accordance with its safeguards obligations, which Tehran appears to have done. But if Iran were to produce centrifuge machines at that location in the future, it might breach the limits of the nuclear accord.

Under the deal, Iran can produce advanced centrifuges in line with its research and development plan and can only produce IR-1 machines, which are currently used for enriching uranium, when the number of machines in monitored storage drops below 500. Iran has not yet reached that point.

Posted: July 1, 2018

Plans Set for Trump-Putin Summit

Along with festering arms control issues, the meeting will be freighted with questions about U.S. President Trump’s relationship with Russian President Putin in light of Russian involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

July/August 2018
By Monica Montgomery

The planned meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin provides an opportunity to jump-start arms control talks on issues such as whether to extend the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which is due to expire in less than three years.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with journalists in Moscow June 7 following his annual televised call-in program. (Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images)John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, said in Moscow June 27 that his preparatory discussions had covered missile-defense matters and “a number of other” arms control topics. “I’m sure many of these will come up in the meeting between the two presidents,” he said.

Along with festering arms control issues, including compliance disputes involving the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a Trump-Putin summit will be freighted with questions about Trump’s relationship with Putin, particularly in light of the investigation into Russia’s efforts to hurt Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The meeting, scheduled for July 16 in Helsinki, follows Trump’s participation in a NATO summit and his visit to the United Kingdom.

Trump has wanted such a formal get-together for some time. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders previously confirmed that he had invited Putin to Washington during a March 20 phone call. In June 15 remarks to reporters, Trump said that he believes that “just like [with] North Korea...it’s much better if we get along with [Russia] than if we don’t.”

Putin and Trump briefly met twice in 2017 on the sidelines of the July Group of 20 summit in Germany and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vietnam. U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman was reported to have been in Washington recently to help with preparations for the first extended one-on-one meeting between the two leaders.

Huntsman was also arranging a visit to Moscow for a delegation of Republican senators. Such a trip could provide a supportive partisan chorus for the presidential meeting, even though Republicans lawmakers in the past have been harshly critical of Putin over issues including Russia’s seizure of Crimea, its military role in support of the Assad regime in Syria, and its threatening posture toward the Baltic nations.

The summit comes amid growing concern about the possibility of a new arms race. Putin and Trump have recently commented on this point, with Putin saying that “nobody plans to accelerate an arms race” and Trump adding that it “is getting out of control.”

Putin has called for New START, which numerically caps U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear forces, to be extended for five years beyond its February 2021 expiration, as allowed by the treaty if both countries agree. Trump has criticized the treaty, and the administration is reviewing the question of extension. (See ACT, May 2018.)

The Trump administration’s budget and the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review accelerate plans to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal and push for the development of new nuclear capabilities. (See ACT, March 2018.) Putin unveiled plans for the development of several new weapons systems at his March 1 presidential address to the Russian Federal Assembly (See ACT, April 2018) in what he described as a response to the U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002 and new U.S. missile defense systems.

During his annual televised call-in show, “Direct Line With Vladimir Putin,” on June 7, Putin faced questions about the status of his announced weapons development program. Despite some “minor things,” he stated that the weapons development “is going exactly according to plan” and he has “no doubt” that they will be put into service on schedule.”

The Kinzhal, described as a “high-precision hypersonic aero-ballistic missile,” has already been tested and is in service with the Russian army. Another hypersonic weapon, the Avangard intercontinental glide vehicle, is an “absolute weapon” that is currently in production for supply in 2019, he added. Finally, Putin said the Sarmat, the “super-powerful” intercontinental ballistic missile that can carry multiple warheads, is in development for deployment in 2020.

Responding to a question about the potential for World War III, Putin said that the idea of nuclear war has been enough to prevent any global war since World War II and should continue to deter international actors from taking any “extreme and dangerous actions…that could threaten modern civilization.” He added that “it is time to sit at the negotiating table and elaborate modern, adequate models of international, European security.”

Posted: July 1, 2018

GOP Takes Aim at Surveillance Treaty

Critics of the Open Skies Treaty seek to block the Pentagon’s request for funding to modernize U.S. reconnaissance aircraft and sensors.

July/August 2018
By Kingston Reif

Republicans on a key House committee are ratcheting up their campaign to cripple the Open Skies Treaty despite protests from the Pentagon and U.S. allies that such a move would benefit Russia.

An OC-135B Open Skies aircraft takes off from Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.  (Photo: Josh Plueger)The House Armed Services Committee proposed in May to block the Air Force’s request to replace the aircraft that the United States uses to conduct treaty flights, including over Russia. But in a letter to Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that, despite Russian violations of the treaty, “it is in our nation’s best interest to remain a party” to the pact.

“In order to maximize U.S. benefits from the Treaty, the United States needs to recapitalize and modernize its sensors and aircraft,” Mattis added. “The 1960s-era U.S. Open Skies aircraft are ill-suited to extreme operating environments in Russia and experience regular, unplanned maintenance issues, often resulting in mission delays or cancellations.”

The Treaty on Open Skies, which entered into force in 2002 and has 34 states-parties, aims to increase confidence in and transparency of military activities, particularly in Europe, by allowing unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the entire territory of its participants for information-gathering purposes. The parties have equal yearly quotas of overflights and must make the information they acquire available to
all treaty parties.

The treaty permits up to 42 overflights of Russia by states-parties, of which 16 can be flown by the United States.

Washington for several years has raised numerous concerns about Russian compliance with the pact. The State Department’s annual compliance report released in April determined that Russia is violating the treaty by imposing restrictions on observation flights within 500 kilometers of Kaliningrad, which is a sensitive Russian enclave between Poland and Lithuania, and within a 10-kilometer corridor along Russia’s border with the Georgian border-conflict regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

In response, the United States has placed restrictions on some of Russia’s treaty flights.

Separate from the compliance concerns, treaty critics in Congress argue the Russia’s flights, which now employ more advanced sensors and cameras as allowed by the treaty, amount to spy missions.

Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, then-director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the House Armed Services Committee in March 2016 that he has “great concern about the quality of the [digital] imagery” for intelligence collection purposes and “would love to deny the Russians” that capability. (See ACT, March 2016.)

The Pentagon is in the process of transitioning to the more advanced digital sensors in its treaty flights over Russia. Even so, critics claim that commercial satellite imagery can provide higher-quality photos and videos than those taken on U.S. treaty flights.

In his May letter to Fischer, Mattis countered that the imagery produced on treaty flights “is verifiable and unclassified, which allows for its use in international or bilateral fora.” He noted that, in 2014, treaty imagery was “a key visual aid during U.S. engagement with allies and Russia regarding the military crisis in Ukraine.”

Meanwhile, the two OC-135B aircraft that the United States uses for treaty flights are increasingly unreliable, resulting in mission delays and cancellations. In 2017 the United States completed only 64 percent of its scheduled Open Skies missions over Russia, according to Mattis.

The House-passed version of the fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act would have barred the Pentagon from acquiring an upgraded digital imaging system for treaty flights. The Senate version of the bill did not include such a provision.

The Trump administration strongly objected to the House proposal. In a statement of policy on the bill, the White House said the prohibition would “prevent the United States from keeping pace with Russian Open Skies aircraft sensor upgrades, fully implementing the Open Skies Treaty, and increasing the value of the treaty to United States national security.”

Following negotiations between the two chambers, the final version of the authorization act conditioned funding for the new cameras and sensors on the receipt of two certifications. (See ACT, December 2017.) The first certification requires the defense secretary to confirm that the new cameras and sensors “will provide superior digital imagery as compared to digital imagery” commercially available to the Defense Department. The second certification requires the president or secretary of state confirm that Washington has imposed costs on Russia for its violation of the treaty. Neither certification has been provided to Congress.

The House has taken an even more aggressive approach this year, turning its attention toward preventing the Pentagon from replacing the OC-135B aircraft. The chamber’s version of the fiscal year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, which passed the House in May, would eliminate the Pentagon’s $222 million request to buy new planes.

In addition, the bill would prevent the United States from participating in or implementing decisions made at the Open Skies Consultative Commission, the pact’s implementing body, to approve requests made by parties to the treaty to upgrade their digital sensor systems until several requirements are met.

These requirements include a certification that Russia has returned to compliance with the treaty and the submission of a report on the value of the treaty. Among the required elements of the report is “a plan, and its estimated comparative cost, to replace the treaty architecture with an increased sharing of overhead commercial imagery, consistent with United States national security, with covered state parties, excluding the Russian Federation.”

The Trump administration once again objected to the House proposal. In its statement of policy on the House bill, the White House said that “modern, capable, and cost-effective aircraft” are needed to replace the current unreliable OC-135Bs.

In contrast, the Senate version, which passed in June, would condition funding to upgrade the digital imaging system until the administration provides the certifications required by the fiscal year 2018 bill.

House and Senate leaders are hoping to reconcile differences in the bills and send a final version to the president by the end of July.

In the Senate, the fight for funding is being led by the two Republicans from Nebraska, who have a home-state interest. The OC-135Bs are based at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha.

Fischer told the Omaha World-Herald in May that “if we don’t have the planes to complete the mission, we’re not hurting the Russians.… We’re hurting ourselves.”

Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) echoed similar sentiments in an interview with the Daily Beast. “While Russia has chosen not to comply with some provisions [of the treaty], they generally adhere to the rest,” he said. “We need them to return to full compliance. Defunding our own aircraft doesn’t hurt them, it only hurts us.”

Anthony Wier, a former State Department and Senate official who worked on Open Skies Treaty implementation issues, told Arms Control Today in a June 21 interview that the effort to hollow out the treaty is based on the theory that there are alternative ways to collect the imagery it provides. But Wier, who is currently at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, noted that the agreement provides the United States and its allies “with imagery we cannot get any other way” and that the flights strengthen ties between the United States and its allies and reassure non-NATO members on Russia’s periphery.

Undermining the treaty, he continued, would further alienate the European allies of the United States, who are seething in the wake of Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.

“We stay in Open Skies not to do favors for the Russians or anybody else, but because being able to fly a camera low and slow over Russian territory many times a year is in America’s interest,” Wier said.

Posted: July 1, 2018

Navy, NNSA Say No to Naval LEU

But proponents of a reactor-fuel change say using low-enriched uranium (LEU) would reflect U.S. nonproliferation goals.

July/August 2018
By Kingston Reif

The U.S. Navy and Energy Department jointly determined that the United States should not pursue research and development of an advanced naval nuclear fuel system using low-enriched uranium (LEU) instead of highly enriched uranium (HEU), according to a March 25 letter to Congress obtained by Arms Control Today.

Admiral Bill Moran, the vice chief of naval operations, speaks with sailors assigned to the USS George Washington during a January 10 tour of the ship at the naval shipyard in Newport News, Va. The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier is undergoing a four-year overhaul that includes refueling of the ship's two nuclear reactors as well as significant repair, upgrades and modernization.  (Photo: Jamin Gordon/U.S. Navy)But lawmakers appear determined to continue exploring the feasibility of shifting to LEU and have proposed doubling funding for the effort in fiscal year 2019.

In their joint letter to the leadership of the House Armed Services Committee, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer and Energy Secretary Rick Perry stated that the replacement of HEU with LEU “would result in a reactor design that is inherently less capable, more expensive, and unlikely to support current life-of-ship submarine reactors.”

“A program to pursue R&D of an LEU advanced fuel system would compete for necessary resources against all other NNSA [National Nuclear Security Administration] and Department of Defense priorities as part of a future budget request,” the letter added.

The fiscal year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act and the energy and water appropriation bill required the Energy Department’s semiautonomous NNSA to submit a conceptual plan for an R&D program on an LEU-based naval fuel system and provided $5 million for this work. The authorization bill also required the energy and naval secretaries to determine whether the United States should continue to pursue R&D on an LEU system.

The subsequent NNSA report, published in July 2016, identified “an advanced naval nuclear fuel system technology” that could power a U.S. aircraft carrier using LEU and presented a conceptual R&D plan to assess the viability of the fuel system that would take 15 years and cost at least $1 billion in fiscal year 2016 dollars. Deploying the new fuel system is projected to cost an additional “several billion dollars,” assuming the development program is successful. (See ACT, October 2016.)

The report added that a successful development effort “might enable” an aircraft carrier reactor fueled with LEU in the 2040s. The conversion of current submarine reactors to run on LEU would be “a larger challenge,” according to the report, which was produced by the Office of Naval Reactors, the NNSA division tasked with overseeing U.S. naval nuclear propulsion matters.

Lawmakers earmarked an additional $5 million annually in fiscal years 2017 and 2018 that could be transferred from the NNSA nonproliferation account to the naval reactors office to research the LEU system.

Roughly 290 metric tons of weapons-grade HEU, enough for more than 11,000 nuclear weapons, are in global naval inventories to power submarines, aircraft carriers, and icebreakers, according to a March 2016 report published by the Nuclear Threat Initiative and the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. Weapons-grade HEU is enriched to 90 percent uranium-235.

The United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, and India use HEU for naval propulsion. France uses and China is believed to use LEU to power their naval reactors. LEU is enriched to less than 20 percent U-235 and cannot be used in nuclear weapons.

Critics argue that relying on HEU undermines U.S. nonproliferation objectives and could make it easier for other countries to justify the production of the sensitive material.

Indeed, Iran announced in December 2016 that it would begin researching and developing nuclear propulsion for marine vessels. (See ACT, January/February 2017.)

The 2016 NNSA report said pursuing naval fuel that uses LEU would “demonstrate United States leadership toward reducing HEU and achieving nuclear non-proliferation goals” and sustain the nation’s reactor fuel technical expertise.

Despite the Trump administration’s rejection of shifting to LEU, Congress has taken initial steps to continue funding the effort for fiscal year 2019, which begins on Oct. 1.

The Senate and House versions of the energy and water appropriations bill would provide up to $10 million to evaluate the LEU alternative. The funding would support R&D at the national laboratories rather than transferring the funds to the NNSA naval reactors office, noted Alan Kuperman, an associate professor and founding coordinator of the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project at the University of Texas at Austin.

The naval reactors office has been reluctant to spend the money authorized and appropriated by Congress, Kuperman said in a June 15 email to Arms Control Today.


Posted: July 1, 2018

Japan Looks to Purchase Cruise Missiles

Plans to buy cruise missiles raise the issue of what is permitted militarily by Japan’s constitution.

July/August 2018
By Monica Montgomery

Japan is moving forward with its plans to purchase mid- to long-range air-launched cruise missiles, which would give Tokyo the capability to conduct pre-emptive military strikes against North Korea.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis welcomes Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera during an honor cordon at the Pentagon on April 20.  (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)The defense budget for fiscal year 2018, approved at the end of March by the Japanese bicameral legislature, the Diet, included funds to introduce cruise missiles to the country’s overall military capabilities. Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera first officially announced Japan’s intentions to purchase the missiles in December 2017, saying that they would be used exclusively for defense purposes as “stand-off missiles that can be fired beyond the range of enemy threats.”

Japanese lawmakers have been more vocal, however, about the intentions behind the procurement of the new weapons, citing the need for a first-strike capability against North Korea. “It is time we acquired the capability; I don’t know whether that could be with ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, or even the F-35 [fighter jet], but without deterrence North Korea will see us as weak,” said Hiroshi Imazu, a member of Japan’s House of Representatives and chairman of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) security policy council.

North Korea currently has a self-imposed moratorium on all nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests as a part of its recent effort to diplomatically engage with the Trump administration, but has conducted tests over the Sea of Japan in recent years with multiple missiles landing in the Japanese exclusive economic zone.

The budget allocated 2.2 billion yen ($20 million) for the purchase of the Joint Strike Missile (JSM) for its F-35A stealth fighters and 30 million yen ($270,000) for research on modifying existing Japanese F-15 fighters to be equipped with Long-Range Anti-Ship Missiles (LRASM) and extended-range Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (JASSM-ER).

The JSM and LRASM have a range of 500 kilometers (310 miles), and the JASSM-ER can reach targets up to 1000 kilometers away. Compared to the 300-kilometer limit of current Japan Self-Defense Force missiles, the JSM, JASSM-ER, and LRASM could be used to strike North Korean missiles on the launch pad. Additionally, the missiles would have the range to counter strike threats from China, as tensions continue to rise in the East and South China seas.

The purchase of the cruise missiles and the logic behind their use presents a potential legal issue of constitutionality. Written in the wake of World War II, Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution renounces war and the threat of force as a method for resolving international disputes and states that “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.”

Japan justifies the maintenance of its current military capabilities by its explicit self-defense purpose. Onodera has asserted that striking a nuclear-tipped missile on an enemy base falls under this category of self-defense if the attack is imminent and “no other options exist,” but the new cruise missiles may be perceived as offensive weapons with more war potential than any other existing Japanese military capability.

According to a 2017 Defense Ministry report, the acquisition of certain types of offensive weaponry is not permissible under any circumstance. But if the Diet approves funding for a new military capability not explicitly prohibited, such as cruise missiles, then it is seen as compatible with the constitution’s requirement of possessing only what is minimally required for self-defense.

Regardless, the cruise missile issue adds to the overall debate in Japan about the need to reconcile actual military capabilities and intentions with constitutional constraints.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed his desire for constitutional changes to explicitly incorporate the defense forces into the document, and in May 2017, he set a goal of doing so by 2020. Abe’s proposed change still would not allow for offensive military actions, but could certainly open the way to a more military-friendly constitution. Amending the constitution would require approval from two-thirds of the Diet and the majority of voters in a referendum.

Posted: July 1, 2018

Google Renounces AI Work on Weapons

Employees protested the company’s involvement in drone-data analysis project known as Project Maven.

July/August 2018
By Trushaa Castelino

Google decided not to renew its Defense Department contract for Project Maven, a Pentagon program that seeks to advance artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities that could be used to improve targeting of drone strikes.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai delivers the keynote address at the 2018 Google I/O conference May 8 in Mountain View, Calif. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)The decision, in response to internal protest against the project, is the latest chapter in the growing debate about the development and use of autonomous weapons systems, sometimes called “killer robots.”

In April, about 4,000 Google employees signed a letter petitioning CEO Sundar Pichai to end the company’s involvement in Project Maven because “Google should not be in the business of war,” the letter read. The letter was followed by a dozen resignations and a second petition from more than 1,000 academics.

As part of Project Maven, Google was responsible for using AI to help analyze footage captured by U.S. military drones, a process heavily dependent on computer vision for detecting and identifying objects. Expected to free up human analysts for other tasks, Google’s AI work could help set the stage for fully autonomous drone strikes.

Drones are a contentious component of U.S. military action in places such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and other locations outside formal U.S. war zones, such as Yemen. Critics cite a lack of transparency in U.S. policy and actions, as well as evidence of larger-than-reported numbers of civilian casualties from drone strikes.

What differentiates the rise of weaponized computer vision technology is a movement in the direction of weapons systems capable of and even allowed to act on their own, without sufficient legal or political restraints governing their use. Military officials have said the United States will not use lethal weapons systems that leave human judgment out of the decision loop, but have not foreclosed use of such capability at some unspecified future time.

Forays into machine learning and other technological advances have to be “navigated carefully and deliberately,” Pichai acknowledged in his keynote address at the 2018 Google I/O developers conference on May 8, adding that Google feels “a deep sense of responsibility to get this right.” A Google executive reportedly told employees on June 1 that the company would not seek to extend its work on Project Maven.

Google declared its ethical principles relating to the pursuit and innovation of machine learning technology in a blogpost June 7. AI developed by Google, Pichai explained, would be socially beneficial, avoid the creation or reinforcement of bias, be built and tested for safety, accountable to people, uphold high standards of scientific excellence, and only make technology available for use in accordance with Google’s principles.

The post pledged that Google would not pursue technologies that are “likely to cause overall harm” or “cause or directly facilitate injury to people.” It simultaneously maintained that the company would continue working with militaries and governments in other ways. Similar to the boycott of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology by academics and researchers over reports of collaboration with a major arms company, this episode indicated that Google’s workforce has the ability to influence its priorities.

It is unclear whether Google’s new principles are adequate to hold the company accountable and prevent it from pursuing other programs similar to Project Maven, but many activists are encouraged.

Mary Wareham of Human Rights Watch, global coordinator of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, an international coalition working to pre-emptively ban fully autonomous weapons systems, has said the campaign “welcomes Google’s pledge.” The campaign has nudged Google to express public support for a treaty to ban fully autonomous weapons systems and to invite other technology companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Oracle to do so as well.

Multilateral attempts at grappling with military systems lacking meaningful human control are underway. In 2016 the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons established a governmental experts group tasked to look into emerging technologies such as lethal autonomous weapons systems. This year, the group met in Geneva on April 9–13, discussing among multiple issues the widening gap between technological advances and international legal constraints.

“Technological developments that remove or reduce direct human control over weapon systems are threatening to outpace international deliberations,” said the International Committee of the Red Cross in its statement to the experts group, urging states to act with more urgency.

Following the meeting, the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots reported a total of 26 nations calling for a ban on lethal autonomous weapons systems, even as five countries—France, Israel, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—explicitly rejected negotiating new international law on these systems.

Google has been ambiguous about where it would draw the line, but momentum from Google’s announcement is a win for treaty advocates. Amazon employees this month wrote to CEO Jeff Bezos criticizing an Amazon facial recognition program to be used by governments.

The experts group is scheduled to meet Aug. 27–31. Google will continue working on Project Maven until its contract expires next year.

Posted: July 1, 2018


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